Handling guest complaints

It is important to train your staff on the tools they need to properly handle complaints. Here are some tips on handling complaints for your next meeting:

– Listen without interrupting. When guests are first voicing their complaint, it is important to listen interactively without interrupting. Most guests first need to vent some frustration by telling their “story” complete with some dramatic details.

– When in person, demonstrate your attentiveness by maintaining eye contact and having neutral facial expressions. Over the phone, be sure to add some “verbal nods” such as “I see,” “okay,” and “alright.”

– Once the guest starts to slow down after venting their story in full detail, it is time for a statement of empathy followed by an apology. Empathy statements show “I can understand how you must feel; I can imagine I might feel the same way given the circumstance.”

– To show empathy, paraphrase and re-state their complaint. This not only shows that we understand the details, but also provides validation for the speaker. “Ms. Young I can understand that this must have been frustrating for you. With such a big event planned for this evening I’m sure the last thing you needed was a hotel room without hot water.”

– Apologize. As simple as it is to apologize, far too often guest services associates offer no apology at all, or what’s worse, offer a trite, insincere comment such as “I’m sorry” without meaning it. When you read negative guest reviews or negative comment card postings, a common issue is that “No one seemed to care; no one even apologized.” An apology is not an admission of fault; it simply says that the intentions were good.

– Restate options. Guests who complain want results. Ideally we can just give them what they want or need. Yet in the real-world of hotels, sometimes it isn’t that easy. For example, if a guest wants a particular room type when absolutely none are available, try to offer at least two alternative choices to pick from. Here is an example:

“Unfortunately Mr. Perez all of our pool view double rooms are occupied this evening. What I can do for you is to put you in a poolside king room and send in a rollaway bed, or I can offer you a garden view double room for this evening.”
By training your staff to be on the lookout for un-voiced guest complaints, and helping then understand how to draw-out the details and properly resolve the issues, we can reduce the odds that the incident surfaces in an online posting. Instead of having a disgruntled guest becoming the hotel’s worst nightmare, we can possibly turn that same guest into an apostle to help spread the good news about the great service they received to turn things around.

by Doug Kennedy – June 2, 2010 (published at http://www.HotelWorldNetwork.com)


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